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Santa Barbara - South County

2019 killing of Cameron Ely ruled justified by Santa Barbara DA

Hope Ranch shooting Ron Ely
A deputy runs toward the sound of gunshots during a 2019 shooting in Hope Ranch

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley has ruled that Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Deputies were justified in shooting and killing a man in a Hope Ranch home last year.

Deputies shot and killed 30-year-old Cameron Ely on Oct. 15, 2019 at the home of his father, actor Ron Ely.

Sheriff's deputies responded to the home on the 4100 block of Mariposa in Hope Ranch for a report of a domestic incident.

When deputies arrived on scene, they located 62-year-old Valerie Lundeen Ely stabbed to death inside the home. Deputies located Ron Ely in the home, who, although distraught and hard to understand, told deputies his son had stabbed his wife.

Deputies searched the grounds and were originally unable to locate Cameron Ely. Ely eventually revealed himself to a pair of deputies in a dark area with no lights. The report from the DA's office says Ely was covered in blood and appeared to have a knife wound in his neck.

Deputies ordered Ely to the ground and he initially cooperated. But deputies said he suddenly rose from the ground and reached for his waistband while claiming to have a gun. That is when four deputies fired at Ely who was struck multiple times and died at the scene.

After the shooting, deputies searched Ely's person and found no gun, but they did recover a small bag of cocaine from his pocket.

Investigators searched the property and recovered multiple knives hidden throughout the home. Detectives also spoke to Ron Ely and his adult children who described Cameron's behavior as erratic and unstable in the days leading up to the fatal incident.

An autopsy revealed that Ely was shot 22 times by deputies and had multiple other cuts and bruises on his body. Additionally, the autopsy revealed that Ely appeared to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain injury seen often in athletes who have suffered multiple concussions. Ely formerly played football at Harvard and his family reported to investigators that they feared his mental state was affected by previous concussions.

The District Attorney's Office reviewed 911 calls from that night and took statements from deputies involved in the shooting.

After reviewing all evidence, the District Attorney's Office ruled Ely's death as justified homicide, citing his erratic behavior and deputy statements that he claimed to have a gun while appearing to reach for a weapon.

"Under these circumstances, Ely’s actions coupled with the deputies’ beliefs that Ely had recently brutally stabbed Valerie to death, caused [the deputies] to reasonably believe that Ely was going to kill or seriously injure one or more of the deputies," the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office said in its final report. "They reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to respond to the threat Ely posed to them. Thus, the deputies’ use of force in firing at Ely was a reasonable use of deadly force."

Ron Ely has since filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office for unlawful death, alleging that his son was attempting to surrender when he was shot and killed by deputies.

For the full report from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office, click here.

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Travis Schlepp

Travis Schlepp is the Digital Content Director for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Travis, click here.

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